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World No Tobacco Day

The focus of this year’s World No Tobacco Day, May 31, is on protecting young people from the marketing of big tobacco companies and helping them avoid using tobacco and nicotine. Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) sponsors this awareness day to highlight the health risks of using tobacco and to encourage governments to put policies into action that help to reduce smoking and the use of other tobacco products.

According to WHO, tobacco use kills more than 8 million people around the world each year, a number that is predicted to grow unless anti-tobacco actions are increased. In the United States, tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of death and disease. It causes many types of cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and other health problems.

This year, WHO is encouraging efforts that empower young people to stand up to big tobacco companies by resisting their ads and marketing, refusing to use any tobacco or nicotine products (including e-cigarettes and other vaping devices), and helping to spread the message among their friends. WHO is also working to expose myths and the ways tobacco companies market their products to young people. They are encouraging famous people, the media, and other influencers including parents and teachers to protect young people from these harmful messages. According to WHO, tobacco companies use many ways to appeal to young people:

  • Flavors. Some tobacco and nicotine products come in cherry, bubble gum, cotton candy and many more.
  • Design. Certain types of products are shaped like USB sticks or candy, making them attractive, easy to carry, and easy to hide.
  • Unproven Claims. Tobacco companies sometimes say certain products, such as vaping devices, are “cleaner” or “less harmful” than smoking, even though there is not enough scientific evidence to back up those claims.
  • Endorsements. Contests, paid celebrities, and “influencers” are used to promote products on social media.
  • Point-of-sale. Placing products in stores near sweets, snacks, and sodas makes it more likely young people will see them.
  • Movies and More. Showing tobacco and nicotine products in movies, TV, and streaming shows can make them seem appealing.
  • Vending machines that sell tobacco products. They can be covered with advertising and placed at venues where young people often go.

Studies show that most people who smoke started when they were teenagers. The younger someone is when they begin to use tobacco and nicotine products, the more likely they are to become addicted. This is why it’s so important for young people to stay away from smoking and vaping. Learn more from the American Cancer Society.